Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935
- Existence: 1857-08-08 - 1935-11-06
Henry Fairfield Osborn was a paleontologist, museum curator and administrator at the American Museum of Natural History. His 45-year career at the museum established it as a leading institution of research and scholarship in the fields of paleontology and evolution. Osborn's interest in paleontology, atypically for his time, derived as much from biology as from geology; in his undergraduate and graduate studies, he concentrated on biology, anatomy, embryology and neurology. In 1891, Osborn began his tenure at the AMNH by organizing and heading the new department of mammalian paleontology, while simultaneously accepting a similar position in biology at Columbia University. The AMNH department, which was eventually renamed vertebrate paleontology, was definitive in the museum's research and mission: the study and teaching of evolution. Osborn began his administrative work in 1899, becoming president in 1908, a position he held for twenty-five years. His strength was in leadership and education rather than empirical science; under his guidance, the museum expanded greatly in physical space and endowment, scientific staff, research and public education. Like his predecessor Albert S. Bickmore, Osborn recognized the need to combine information with entertainment. He popularized paleontology by ensuring that the museum's exhibits did not merely display the researchers' work, but also explained it in an attractive and accessible manner. Osborn, like so many of his contemporaries, was a prolific writer. His attempt to research and publish a definitive record of all the fossil mammals of North America was wildly overambitious, but by the time of his death he had completed substantial works on Equidae, titanotheres, rhinoceroses and Proboscidea, as well as on sauropod dinosaurs; his total publications number 940 (books, monographs, articles and papers), about half devoted to vertebrate paleontology.
Citation:From biographical note for Osborn's archive collection at the AMNH Library, Mss .O835, written by Ann Herendeen.
Found in 52 Collections and/or Records:
Primarily correspondence between E. O. Hovey and museum administrators or staff. Also contains quarterly and annual departmental reports, meeting minutes, and "Index to Letters."
Primarily correspondence between E. O. Hovey and museum administrators or staff. Also contains sketches of museum floor plans, meeting minutes, departmental reports, financial statements, photographs of geological formations, and "Index to Letters."
Primarily correspondence between E. O. Hovey and museum administrators or staff. Also contains departmental reports, memoranda, and photographs of exhibits and geological formations.
Primarily correspondence between E. O. Hovey and museum administrators on various museum matters, including Hovey's acceptance of the position of Acting Director of the museum. Contains "Index to Letters" (1 p.).
Primarily correspondence between E. O. Hovey and museum administrators. Also contains minutes of Sub-Committee on Publications and statements of Department of Geology receipts and expenditures. Contains "Index to Letters" (1 p.)
Letters, visiting cards, and clippings from the expedition mounted on scrapbook pages. Many letters are addressed to Henry Fairfield Osborn and Bashford Dean.
Series 1 (Boxes 1 to 6) contain Osborn’s correspondence, both general and relating to specific publications including “Age of Mammals” 2nd edition, “Ape Man,” and “Men of the Old Stone Age.” This series also contains accession information for the entire Henry Fairfield Osborn Papers collection. Most materials are in English, but there is also some correspondence in German. It is arranged alphabetically and thematically, then chronologically.